The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is warning consumers not to eat “I.M. Healthy” brand soy nut butter and soy nut butter-containing products from “The SoyNut Butter Company” until further notice because of possible contamination with E. coli O157 bacteria. This strain of E. coli can cause disease by making a toxin called Shiga toxin. These bacteria are referred to as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC.
Health and Mental Hygiene is working with other states, CDC, and the FDA to investigate a multistate cluster of E. coli O157 infections. These infections are closely related genetically, indicating a likely common source, such as food. The investigation is ongoing, however, the Maryland patient consumed “I. M. Healthy” soy nut butter prior to becoming ill and cases in other states might also be associated with this product.
Some types of STEC frequently cause severe disease, including bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure. Sometimes infection causes non-bloody diarrhea or no symptoms. Symptoms typically begin within 3 to 4 days, but can range from 1 to 10 days, after exposure. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a serious complication that occurs in some infected people, particularly children under 5 and the elderly. In this syndrome, red blood cells are destroyed and kidney failure occurs. Anyone suspecting STEC infection should contact their healthcare provider.
The I.M. Healthy soy nut butter and soy nut butter-containing products have been distributed to a range of stores in Maryland and are also available for purchase online. Due to their long shelf life, consumers should check for these products and not eat these products until further notice.
A multi-state cluster of at least 10 people infected with E. coli bacteria has been identified and public health officials are interviewing victims about possible foodborne sources.
As of this afternoon, patients had been identified in four states, said a spokeswoman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This investigation is ongoing, and we will update the public when more information becomes available,” she said. “CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill people and to interview those people about foods they ate before they got sick.”